African Lion Agriculture (ALA) a subsidiary of PALA investment that is the major shareholder of Sierra Rutile. They have undertaken a massive agricultural project in Rubber, Pineapple and Oil Palm.
In an interview with the Community Affairs manager Dauda Kamara at the site, he explained how the project started and how far they have gone to make it a big success story.
Mr Dauda Kamara said the agricultural project started under Sierra Rutile with the Community Affairs department working with the local people because as the mining is going on, the people don’t have access to the land anymore. So Sierra Rutile wanted an alternative means to help the people with.
It was started as Alternative Sustainable Development project. As the project continues to grow, Rutile saw the potential in agriculture and they convinced their major shareholder PALA investment to finance the project.
It was decided by the officials of both Rutile and PALA that they can do agriculture as well because not mining only can help develop the country. So PALA accepted the proposal and made the investment possible that is going on today under the name of African Lion Agriculture.
Mr Kamara said the project is on the way and they have already nursed 120,000 oil palms at the Motega Nursery. He said this quantity of seedlings is what they are going to plant this year on an area of 820 hectares which is about 2000 acres.
The Project manager said they get their seeds from a company called ASD Costa Rica and also from Ghana. They are buying the pre-germinated seeds from these countries and they are planted at the pre-nursery or shade house where they are protected from the sunlight with a special material that they import. This material can be regulated to get more or less sunshine.
“One interesting thing is that you came late because the workers are off duty. We have about 90 workers that we have employed from the mining localities and up to 80 percent of them are illiterates, I want to tell you that they fix the shades and they regulate them perfectly even without reading or writing. Even the Krio language they can’t speak but their performances are extremely good.”
Mr Kamara said most of the workers in the irrigation team never went to school and when there is a breakdown they can repair and manage it well. He said they have two types of irrigation one is the sprinkler and the other is the drip. The drip is used at the pre-nursery and the sprinkler is used for the main nursery.
He said they get their water from the oldest dam that Sierra Rutile constructed called the Motega Dam. He said the dam is for the use of the dredge and ALA is also using it for irrigation. He said Rutile is providing all the assistance they need the use of the dam and electricity to operate the irrigation plant.
Mr Kamara said they have the state of the art weather station that helps them understand the weather patterns so they can know when to plant.
At the other end of the farm, there is the rubber nursery and he said they have 270,000 rubber plants at the nursery that they will be planting next year. He said the ones they will plant this year is on the other nursery field where the plantation nursery is and the workers are just waiting for the rains to start falling to plant them.
He explained about the bud grafting they will do on the rubber this year before they will be ready to be planted next year. He said they have the Indians who are the expert in bud grafting and they will start doing It when once the rains start falling.
Giving us a rundown of what they have planted, he said “last year we planted 155 hectares of Oil Palm, 36 hectares of Rubber, three hectares of Cacao, one hectares of Coffee and 13 hectares of Pineapple. This is our crop portfolio for last year.”
“This year we will plant 820 hectares of Oil Palm, 450 hectares of Rubber, 30 hectares of Cacao and another 30 hectares of Pineapple. This is our plan for this year and it will be done in June. The land preparation is on right now as I am talking you.”
He said they have contracted surveyors to join the Rutile team that are outstretched, but they would help prepare the base for them to do the survey to get the actual land space they will be using.
Asking the Community Affairs Manager for the reason of the Oil Palm he said it is for bio fuel as they are currently testing it. He said they have imported bio fuel from Malaysia and they are testing it on some Rutile vehicles and other heavy equipment and if the test results are positive then they would be able to increase the plantation, and the bio fuel we will use to support Rutile Company. He said they will also provide Oil Palm products for use by people.
Asking the Manager if they have the intention to build the mill in Sierra Leone, he said in two years time when they have planted 6,000 hectares of Oil Palm they will start the construction process of building the Oil Palm.
“The mill we are planning to build is a mill that would generate power for itself. We are on the early stage of planning, for now we need to plant and after planting is finished, then we will start the mill.”
Mr Dauda Kamara talking about the number of expatriate staff they have, he said the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Company is Charles Kaizer aka Buck from America. The Head of Operations (HOO) is Charles Romandidier aka Chuck, Nursery Manager is Eduardo Torres from Costa Rica, the Agric Manager is another Costa Rica by the name of Ovedio Rogers. The Pineapple Manager he said is a lady by the name of Irina also a Costa Rican. This he said are the expatriate staff in the country.
He said they have a total of 450 staff and they are working on the Local Content Policy that put the local staff at 95 percent plus.
Talking about the Pineapple, he said they are not exporting it because they have a contract with Felix Juice at Newton. He said they have a fixed contract with them as they helped brought the seeds for ALA.
By Austin Thomas
Monday April 14, 2014